There is an art in enjoyment. If you want to enjoy exotic food, delicate wine, music, mountains, paintings, poetry - there is a way to go about it so that you really enjoy it. So too with Judaism.

"You mean cheesecake on Shavuot and things like that?" someone might ask. "You don't need much skill to enjoy that. Just eat it, and the enjoyment will come by itself."

"I agree about the cheesecake. But I mean other things in Judaism. You know, the Mitzvot, the Commandments. There's an art to enjoying them."

"You're telling me! Take ______, for example, how could anyone enjoy that?"

Okay, at least we agree on the topic for discussion. On the dotted line you figuratively insert an aspect of Jewish Law which provokes questions. The kind of thing about which someone might say, "I have a problem with that." Now we come to the art of enjoyment.

We gain an insight into the enjoyment of Judaism from the Torah reading of Bechukitai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34). This parshah begins with a passage in which G‑d is speaking to the Jewish people. It is usually translated like this: "If you walk in My statutes and keep My laws, then I will give you rain in the right time and the earth will give its produce."

This sounds like a condition that G‑d is imposing: If you, the Jewish people, keep G‑d's laws, then He will reward you. The key term is "if." If you do good, everything will go well.

This is the usual, literal way of translating the text. However, the Sages of the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 5a) offer a different perspective. They suggest that the word we usually translate as "if" should be translated here quite differently: "Please." The Sages state that with these words G‑d is asking, or even entreating, the Jewish people to study His Torah and keep His laws: "Please, walk in My Statutes; then I will give you rain in the right time..."

When G‑d asks us to do something, saying "please," entreatingly, what does it mean? The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that it means G‑d is helping us to do it. G‑d's entreaty to us makes us feel happy to do it; we gain a sense of pleasure. The pleasure derives not from the details of the action, whatever it might be, but from the sense of contact with G‑d which it provides. It might be something we cannot understand at all, it might even entail hardship and difficulty. Nonetheless, the fact of G‑d's request, or rather entreaty, G‑d's "please," gives the person a warm feeling. He enjoys fulfilling the command — even if it makes him grumble and complain on other levels.

So what is the secret? How do we feel this sense of contact? How do we enjoy? The answer is in the word "statutes." The Jewish concept of a "statute" (chok) is a Divine decree for which no reason is obvious. The laws of business ethics have a clear point; the festival of Passover is also understandable as it celebrates the birth of the Jewish people. But there are many laws which have no simple explanation.

The parshah is telling us that if we approach all of Jewish law — yes, including _____ — as something which comes directly from G‑d, and which G‑d is entreating us to follow — then we will really enjoy it. We will "walk," we will advance in keeping the laws, with true pleasure. Then the rain will come at the right time as well — meaning that G‑d will provide all we need so that we can keep the laws of Judaism in comfort. Including cheesecake!

In other words: Look at the wider picture. Judaism connects you with G‑d. So enjoy!1